President’s Reported Willingness to Cut Social Security Benefits a Danger to Seniors

–by Sharon Bender

B’nai B’rith International is deeply disappointed by a White House willingness, as reported by The Washington Post among other news organizations, to include cuts to Social Security benefits in addition to potentially devastating cuts to Medicare and other programs in deficit reduction efforts. Social Security does not contribute to the federal deficit-by law, it simply cannot. Social Security benefits come from payroll contributions. By law, it’s a self-funding program which cannot touch general revenue or, therefore, drive the deficit up. Including it in these deficit talks could make an already disturbing set of options even worse.

Social Security is a vital, irreplaceable safety net for seniors and people with disabilities. Benefits are already slim, with the average beneficiary receiving just $13,000 a year. By reducing the already badly calculated and insufficient cost of living adjustment (COLA), the program would be less effective even for current beneficiaries. And the damage would be compounded annually, hurting future retirees and the very elderly even more.

“That these rumored COLA cuts would be piled on top of expected changes to Medicare that could shift costs to seniors is especially worrisome,” Allan J. Jacobs, B’nai B’rith International President said. “Eventually middle class retirees could find their most reliable income stream consumed by their rising health care costs.”

More after the jump.
The reported White House plan would recalculate the COLA using a mechanism chosen because it reduces the size of the increase. This COLA cut would accumulate over time, eventually leaving social security benefits far behind inflation and smaller for each successive generation.

B’nai B’rith International understands that the president feels obliged to “put everything on the table” in order to avoid being accused of being unwilling to compromise and to increase the chance for a responsible deal.  But as the president’s spokesperson reiterated today, Social Security is not part of the federal deficit and is funded outside the budget. It is difficult to believe that the government could justify collecting the same rate of taxes from today’s workers while agreeing to erode their benefits into the future.

“This plan makes no sense,” B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said. “Social Security has no impact on the deficit. To include cuts to beneficiaries as part of a deficit reduction deal flies in the face of sound fiscal policy and disregards a population segment in most need of assistance. And in the face of the possible cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or other critical programs on which seniors and the disabled rely, Social Security cuts could be disastrous.”

B’Nai B’Rith Commends the Netherlands for Refusing to Recognize Palestinian State Declaration

B’nai B’rith also praises the Dutch government for defunding non profit organizations engaging in anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions activities.

–by Sharon Bender

B’nai B’rith International commends the Dutch government for joining other nations in rejecting a Palestinian plan to achieve a unilaterally declared statehood at the United Nations. In a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on June 30, Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said the Netherlands would not support a push for statehood recognition at the General Assembly in September.

The Netherlands calls for direct, bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and rejected the United Nations as a venue for promoting unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state-a view B’nai B’rith has long supported.

B’nai B’rith also praises the Dutch government for its plans to implement restrictions on Dutch humanitarian programs that fund anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions programs (BDS) and that seek to delegitimize the Jewish state. This move from the Dutch foreign ministry would prevent non profit organizations from using taxpayer money to fund anti-Zionist and anti-Israel initiatives.

Additionally, the Netherlands will enter into a partnership with Israel, the Dutch-Israeli Cooperation Council, by January 2012, to strengthen political ties and increase economic investment between the two countries.

More after the jump.
These positive developments come on the heels of a government assault on religious freedom when the lower house of the Dutch Parliament voted to ban ritual slaughter of animals, which would prohibit Dutch Jews and Muslims from adhering to their religious dietary laws.  B’nai B’rith urges the upper house to reject the ban when it votes on the measure in September.

B’nai B’rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, is the oldest and most widely known Jewish humanitarian, human rights, and advocacy organization.  For 167 years, BBI has worked for Jewish unity, security, continuity, and tolerance.  Visit www.bnaibrith.org.

Reactions to the Terrorist Attack in Itamar

Saturday morning in Itamar terrorists killed five members of an Israeli family, including three children, in their sleep. We collected responses from the White House, Ameinu, the Union for Reform Judaism, Agudath Israel of America, and B’nai Brith International.

Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the murder of five Israelis in a terrorist attack in the northern West Bank, and we offer our condolences to their loved ones and to the Israeli people.  There is no possible justification for the killing of parents and children in their home. We call on the Palestinian Authority to unequivocally condemn this terrorist attack and for the perpetrators of this heinous crime to be held accountable.

More reactions after the jump.
Kenneth Bob, President of Ameinu:

“This act of terror can not pass silently. Nothing can justify the killing of innocents, particularly children. Israelis and Palestinians must remember their shared humanity and reject brutality and violence.”

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffe, President of the Union for Reform Judaism:

We condemn in the strongest of terms the senseless massacre of an innocent Israeli family in their sleep. The thought of a knife slaughter which included victims, ages eleven, four and three-months is sickening to us. There is no place in this world, or in the struggle for peace in the Middle East, for this sort of violence.

We pray for the three surviving children in the family, all under the age of 12, who are left without their parents and siblings. No child should ever be forced to go through what these children are undoubtedly going through and our hearts go out to them and all members of the community of Itamar.

We welcome the condemnations of the attacks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. We urge them to follow-through on their statements with actions that bring the perpetrators to justice and strongly reinforce the message that violence like this will not be tolerated by the Palestinian leadership. Further, we support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to safeguard the citizens of Israel and punish the murderers.

We call for swift justice for the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of Fatah, which claimed responsibility for the attack, characterizing it as a “heroic operation.” This sort of blatant disregard for the value of human life is appalling and we hope that together the Israelis and the Palestinians will work to ensure that this violence remains an isolated incident and does not escalate.

Agudath Israel of America:

Every person with a Jewish heart-in fact every person with an unsullied human heart-feels only sorrow, anguish and outrage over what befell the Fogel family in Itamar this past Shabbos night.

There comes a point when words cannot convey the depth of evil.  No phrase in any language can truly describe the depravity of people who are capable of creeping into a peaceful home in the middle of the night and stab to death an 11-year-old, a 4-year-old, a baby girl three months of age and their parents.

And so we are left with only the heartbreak and tears, and the pools of innocent Jewish blood that the perpetrators of these despicable acts left behind in their evil wake.

May the world be left with something too: a better appreciation of why Israelis might be reluctant to trust the intentions of people who hate them so viscerally, and of authorities whose media and school textbooks feed demonization of “Zionists” to their violence-prone culture.

May the blood of these precious innocents be avenged soon and fully by the Av Harachamim.

B’nai B’rith International:

B’nai B’rith International condemns the brutal and horrific murders of Udi and Ruth Fogel and their children Yoav, 11; Elad, 4 and Hadas, 3 months, in their home in the West Bank settlement of Itamar on March 11, on the eve of Shabbat.

“An attack of this nature defies comprehension,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Acts of brutality like this make a total mockery of the peace process.”

The attack was claimed by terrorist group Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades of Imad Mughniyeh.

“The murder of this family was the act of inhuman and depraved individuals,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “The constant stream of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli hate speech and incitement condoned by the Palestinian authorities, since the Oslo Accords of 1993, breeds the kind of despicable violence that ended the lives of this family.”

B’nai B’rith International stands in solidarity with the friends and family of the Fogels, and with the Israeli people as they struggle to cope with the aftermath of the attack.

UNESCO Withdraws Sponsorship of World Philosophy Day in Iran

— Sharon Bender

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova withdrew its support from World Philosophy Day events set to take place in Tehran Nov. 21-23. UNESCO’s decision recognizes the unacceptability of Tehran as a location to celebrate peace and free exchange of ideas, given the regime’s long history of censorship, domestic repression, and hateful rhetoric toward Israel, a U.N. member state.

This change in UNESCO’s course followed implementation of new restrictions on Iranian university courses and curricula, including prohibiting the establishment of new departments teaching law, political science, and philosophy-key tenants for discussion within World Philosophy Day events.

“UNESCO has made the right choice in withdrawing support for Iran’s World Philosophy Day events,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Philosophy cannot be celebrated in an environment where free exchange of ideas is suppressed and hatred reigns.”

“Tehran does not deserve the honor of holding UNESCO-sponsored events extolling freedom and open-mindedness,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “It is impossible to have a philosophical event under a cloud of repression where tolerance is absent.”

Jewish Fraternity honors B’nai Brith’s Glick and Mariaschin

— Sharon Bender

The Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) honored B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick from Huntingdon Valley, PA and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin on August 6 during the AEPi 97th Anniversary Convention.
 
Glick was initiated as an honorary member of the fraternity and Mariaschin received the Gitelson Silver Medallion, an award which honors AEPi alumni who have committed to practice Jewish community service.

In 2007, AEPi and B’nai B’rith partnered to provide community service, educational, and advocacy programming for fraternity brothers to keep active in the Jewish community after graduating college.

“I am honored to be named an honorary member of a dedicated fraternity focused on values of brotherhood, leadership, and service,” Glick said. “I value B’nai B’rith’s relationship with AEPi and believe that our joint service projects change lives for the better in the communities we serve.”

Mariaschin was a brother in the Delta Beta chapter at the University of New Hampshire.

“I am extremely proud to receive such a prestigious award that represents something I have been passionate about throughout my professional career-service to others,” Mariaschin said. “It is fitting to have this award presented in New Orleans, a place where helping others has become paramount since Hurricane Katrina struck the city.”  

Photo: B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick volunteering in New Orleans Park with the AEPi brothers.

“Partnering with 500 Jewish young men to help rebuild New Orleans’ main park is truly special,” B’nai B’rith
International President Dennis W. Glick said. “B’nai B’rith has been deeply involved in helping New Orleans for
five years. This project will have an immediate impact on the community, and will also teach valuable lessons to
the AEPi brothers about giving back.”

B’nai B’rith’s active history of sponsoring disaster relief programs in New Orleans began shortly after
Hurricane Katrina devastated the city-raising more than $1 million for the Gulf region. B’nai B’rith also
demonstrated its support of the Gulf Coast by holding its annual policy conference in New Orleans in 2006.

The New Orleans City Park project marks the end of a five-year effort to assist in rebuilding homes, houses of
worship, and other projects in states devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“This project is the culmination of a long-term commitment to helping the Gulf Coast rebuild,” B’nai B’rith
International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “We hope the citizens of New Orleans
enjoy the park’s upgrades and that it becomes a great symbol of the rebuilding efforts in the region.”

B’nai B’rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, is the oldest and most widely known Jewish humanitarian, human rights, and advocacy organization.  For 166 years, BBI has worked for Jewish unity, security, continuity, and tolerance.